No Rest for the Wicked—and None for Supply Chain Managers Either

up at nightIf the supply chain managers in your life appear to be exhausted—you know, sporting dark circles under their eyes or bypassing the K-cups to snort coffee grounds directly—a new report from APICS and Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business details the reasons why. Released last month, the aptly-titled “Supply Chain Issues: What’s Keeping Supply Chain Managers Awake at Night?” investigates the current business practices of more than 50 supply chain organizations and identifies critical issues.

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Simplify Automated Storage System Connectivity, Control with an Experienced SAP EWM or WM Integrator

For operations with multiple subordinate automation systems—including automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) such as vertical lift modules (VLMs), horizontal carousels and vertical carousels—connecting both their control and communications to warehouse management and material flow systems can be challenging.

That’s why more companies are taking a closer look at implementing SAP Supply Chain Execution (SCE) Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) or SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Warehouse Management (WM) in their automated and/or conventional warehouses. Either choice can be customized to connect administrative functions to warehouse management to material flow to automation (and back). [Read more…]

About the Author Harouna Mohamadou

Harouna Mohamadou is Director SAP Consulting at viastore SYSTEMS, and is responsible for launching the company’s SAP consulting initiative, which will allow viastore to offer the full spectrum of supply chain execution software solutions.

Missed MODEX live? Or, Didn’t Make It to the Incremental Approach to Automation Installation, Investment Seminar? Catch It Here.

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At MODEX 2016, viastore presented a free, on-floor educational session exploring “What Level of Automation Makes Sense — An Incremental Approach” to debunk the concept that automating your warehouse means you’ll be exclusively incorporating expensive, complex, high-speed, highly mechanized equipment that runs 24/7, lights out, without any human intervention.

Yet, in reality, there are actually four levels of automation, and very few installations in the U.S. are at that highest level. The majority of facilities have instead invested in a more affordable level of automation to achieve process improvements in a few select areas that were previously not delivering value to their operations. The resulting automation solution yields better throughput and productivity.

If you missed the ‘live’ MODEX, or missed the ‘live’ session, you can view a recording of the presentation and listen to the accompanying audio here. In the seminar, I covered the four levels of warehouse automation, divided into groupings based on increasing degrees of complexity and cost. They include…

Level 1: Conventional picking with process improvements delivered via warehouse management system (WMS), order picking system such as radio-frequency (RF) or voice-directed picking, and/or a labor management system (LMS).

Level 2: Mechanized solutions that automate horizontal movement and reduce non-value added activities (like walking), such as conveyor, pick modules, stretch wrap applicators, label print-and-apply, and layer picking equipment.

Level 3: Semi-automated equipment that improves storage efficiency and further minimizes travel and manual handling with storage carousels, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), conveyor and sortation, and warehouse control software (WCS) to direct equipment operation in line with the WMS.

Level 4: Fully automated, high-speed (and yes, potentially “lights out”), greenfield installations that include a combination of high-density AS/RS, extensive conveyor and sortation, automated layer picking, case palletizing, WCS and WMS.

During each level of automation, the relating common factors for the ROI for each were discussed. These are covered in the presentation.

In the session, I also explained how to plan each level of automation investment in order to build upon the previous step in a planned, predictable way. For that reason, it’s key to partner with a supplier or systems integrator who can help you develop and map a solution that grows—flexibly and scalably—in lock-step with your operations. That way you can be sure that previous technology investments can be maximized and your existing equipment and processes are properly leveraged.

Want to learn more? Call viastore at 616.977.3950 to chat about which level of automation makes sense for your operation with one of our warehouse planning specialists.

Experienced Integrators Help Get the Most Out of Your SAP EWM or WM Implementation

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More and more operations are choosing to implement SAP Supply Chain Execution (SCE) Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) or SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Warehouse Management (WM) in their conventional and/or automated warehouses. Depending on the application and the selected SAP solution, however, there may be some limitations within the software.

These confines occur when the pre-configured SAP modules do not match the dialogs required by your current (or future) processes. Primarily, they fall into the realms of:

  • User interfaces that aren’t as streamlined as they could be, or
  • Optimizations needed to meet specialized process flows.

So how can an operation ensure that the chosen SAP EWM or WM solution is implemented in such a way that minimizes disruption to a current workflow? By partnering with an intralogistics solutions supplier who has extensive expertise in configuring deployments that match an operation’s needs, while leveraging industry-specific best practices.

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7 Ways to Avoid a “Box of Chocolates” Automation and/or Software Implementation Scenario

“My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” – Forrest Gump

Prevent unwelcome and unpleasant surprises in a new installation or upgrade that can cause setbacks in your schedule and budget.

Depending on your taste, it might be nice to discover a hunk of caramel hiding under that chocolate from the heart-shaped Valentine’s Day candy box—or not. But when it comes to an automation and/or software implementation in your warehouse or distribution center, the majority of surprises are unwelcome and unpleasant.

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